Meredith Corp. is indeed exploring a sale of Sports Illustrated, Time, Fortune, and Money magazines, according to what staffers were told in a conference call with CEO Tom Harty this afternoon.
Harty said the company is going forward with those plans because it’s received enough interest from potential buyers, according to a source who was on the call.
Sports Illustrated, in particular, has gotten interest from “wealthy individuals” who had been involved in the sports business industry at one time, the source added. That interest is said to come from what Harty told the staff was a “non-traditional buyer” that is not believed to be a publicly traded company.
While Meredith announced massive layoffs—200 jobs cut today, and another 1,000 over the next year, no editorial jobs at SI will be cut in advance of the sale, according to two sources. The buyer might also be able to use Meredith’s infrastructure (offices, printing), at least for a while, one source added.
Harty told staffers Meredith is confident the potential buyers are expressing the right interest at the right price, which is why the company is going public now with its plans. Meredith has targeted a sale date of the end of June as a result.
In response to a question about why Meredith was selling, Harty said it was a combination of potential interest from buyers along with a need for SI’s business model to change. A source characterized Harty’s description of this as a switch from an advertising-driven model to more of a consumer-driven model that might include higher subscription fees and more services for consumers.
Meredith, which is backed by the conservative billionaire Koch Brothers, just bought Time Inc. for a reported $1.8 billion in cash last November. It had previously indicated it might look to sell weekly titles like SI, Time, Money, and Fortune soon after the acquisition. Reuters reported last week that Meredith had hired advisors to help it explore a potential sale of the four magazine titles.